The Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Bill 2020 was passed by the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, December 1, with the hope that it will help to regulate fertility treatment industry of India.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had drawn the first draft of this bill way back in 2008. But after many twists, the Union Cabinet finally approved the Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill (ART) after a decade, in 2020.
The ART bill seeks to set minimum standards and codes of conduct for fertility clinics and egg/sperm banks in the country.
This bill is much required as our country has become the hub of the global fertility industry and medical tourism.
What is the ART bill? When was it first introduced in the Parliament? What does the bill entail? Why is the ART bill important? FIT explains.
What is the ART Bill?
The Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill (ART) allows "safe and ethical practice of assisted reproductive technology services", which includes egg or sperm donation, in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), intrauterine insemination (IUI), and gestational surrogacy.
The bill also includes protection for egg donors, gestational surrogates, and the children who are conceived through the ART services.
When was the ART Bill first introduced?
The bill's origins can be traced back to the "National Guidelines for Accreditation, Supervision and Regulation of ART Clinics in India", drafted by the ICMR in 2005.
The ICMR launched the first draft of the ART (Regulation) Bills and Rules three years later, in 2008.
In August 2009, the Law Commission of India stated that the draft bill was "incomplete". The report also stressed on the fact that a legislation was needed to regulate ART clinics and protect the rights of all parties involved in surrogacy.
Finally last year the ART bill was introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament. However, the House was adjourned without the ART bill being taken up by the Government, due to COVID. This led to further delay in proceedings.
Finally, the bill has now been passed.
What does the ART Bill Entail?
The Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill (ART) allows the registration of every ART clinic, egg bank, and sperm bank in the country. It also specifies certain rules for the gamete (reproductive cells) donors such as the eligibility criteria, number of times they can donate and the favourable conditions.
The bill states that a bank can obtain semen from males between the age group 21-55 years of age. Females can donate oocytes between 23-35 years of age.
Only married women can donate oocytes and if they've had at least one alive child of their own. The bill also states that a woman can donate oocyte only once in her life.
The party that is interested in ART services has to provide insurance coverage for the oocyte donor. As per the bill, checks for genetic diseases need to done prior to embryo implantation.
A clinic is also prohibited from offering to provide a child of pre-determined sex.
ART clinics and banks are to be registered under the National Registry of Banks and Clinics of India, according to the ART bill. It is the duty of the State governments to appoint registration authorities during the process.
The registration will be valid for five years and can be renewed for another five years.
Why is the ART Bill Important?
The ICMR had noticed that there had been an exponential growth in fertility clinics. it was felt that it could lead to higher chances of unethical or exploitative practices.
The Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill (ART) will help to regulate the functioning of such clinics, with the hope that it will help prevent unethical practices.
(Written with inputs from Business Today and The Print.)